The Permian Basin’s oil and gas drilling companies have a steady demand for steel pipe. Currently those supplies are shipped to Juarez or Houston and then back to the Basin at significant extra cost. Odessa’s Mayor David Turner has been looking into the feasibility of shipping steel from Chihuahuan factories directly to Odessa and Midland.
But depending on who you talk to, the sound of an 18-wheeler is either the sound of commerce or, for some, disaster.
“You can imagine what it would be like to have potentially 100s of trucks a day rolling right through the center of Alpine,” said Alpine resident Roger Siglin.
Siglin is concerned that an announcement made by Odessa Mayor David Turner and State Sen. Kel Seliger about an exploratory business trip to Mexico signaled another iteration of La Entrada al Pacifico, the failed trade route that was supposed to carry a high volume of goods from the factories of China, to the ports of Mexico, up through the Big Bend and throughout the Basin to U.S.
Mayor David Turner says that’s not what this trip about. La Entrada is no more.
“Basically, from my understanding, that ended in 2007,” Mayor Turner said. “What we’ve done, is the Hispanic Chamber and I went to Chihuahua to talk to some of the businesses, especially metal, pipe, basically the things we need for the economy for the Permian Basin. In this area we’re looking 10 to 15 more years of drilling. We can’t get the pipe from China because it’s not the quality we need, so most of the pipe we need is going to come from Mexico. I was just trying to find our business more of a direct route.”
These types of business trips are not unusual. The mayor of Presidio, John Furguson, took one recently with his economic director to Cualtémoc to explore ways to bring economic activity north of the border there. Now Furguson says he’s been invited to a meeting with Mayor Turner and others, and he’s all ears as to what they have to say.
“Presidio, speciciflly, we’re really somewhat of an empoveished community and we really need to see what we can do to take advange of border commerce,” Mayor Furguson said. “But we have arranged to meet with Mayor Turner, myself, and Presidencia Muncipal Miguel Carreón Rohana, the mayor of Ojinaga.”
But while Mayor Furguson says he has an open mind because, he says, “the city government is barely making it as it is,” in Presidio, there are activities he won’t endorse.
“There are certain things I’m not going to sign on to, especially if they are related to fracking or things like that,” he said. “We’ve seen how things go in Odessa, Midland, a lot of the oil patch communities, they have a lot of issues. And I know there’s lots of money, but I’ll trade lots of money for the quality of life we enjoy in Presidio.”
All elected officials involved in this upcoming meeting stressed this is still an idea in infancy. The Ojinaga bridge expansion project from two lanes to four lanes, hasn’t even begun yet. That type of road and bridge infrastructure would be key to a route like this.
“This is all so early in the process, you know, we need to see if it’s even viable,” said Mayor Turner. “We can use all the steel we can get now in the Basin and we just need a better and more direct route.”
In a phone conversation, State Senator Kel Seliger stressed that those who might be opposed to increased 18-wheeler traffic on the streets of tourist towns in the Big Bend should instead focus instead on the economic benefits.
He said, “”the details? What’s different than last time? That doesn’t matter. What matters is the economy.”